LAW SCHOOL: The University of Akron School of Law
STATUS: 3L, JD-MBA
UNDERGRADUATE: B.A., Theology/French/Spanish Literature, Minor in Psychology, Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama
OTHER DEGREE: Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy, Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale
HOME CITY/STATE: Miami and Orlando, Florida
Prad A. Georges, a 3L in the JD-MBA program at the University of Akron School of Law, has come full circle personally and professionally. In his former career as a therapist, he saw that he could give his clients better lives if he were able to help improve local economies. Now he says he has the law and business skills to do that.
“Working as a marriage-family therapist for several nonprofits, working alongside lawyers in family court, I was counseling people at the lower middle-to-bottom end of the socioeconomic scale,” Georges said. “That’s when I realized that the poor state of local businesses and entrepreneurship was the underlying cause of so much financial distress. I knew, too, that with a law degree and an MBA, I could help these families and their communities turn their situations around.”
In emails and a telephone interview, Georges explained how he had begun with the funding and administration of nonprofits, and thus public interest law.
“Instituting change through agencies and government funding was a slow and uncertain process,” he said. “By contrast, I discovered that the commercial world, the world of business, offered many immediate opportunities for the rebirth of whole communities.”
Once again, he said, a legal education and informed business acumen seemed central to local economic growth and progress.
LD: What were key factors that led you to choose Akron as your law school?
PAG: I didn’t want to pay an excessive amount of money to get a meaningful legal education, and had to do a lot of research to find the law school that would offer that kind of value. I focused on the cost of living in different regions of the country, recognizing early on that the Midwest would probably be the most reasonable. I also compared tuition and other expenses – the total cost of attending. I found that Midwestern schools in general, particularly in Ohio, were far more affordable than schools in my home state of Florida, especially given that I wouldn’t be able to work full-time while a law student. My wife, Andrea, and I have four children – a 6-year-old, 4-year-old and 2-year-old twins.
I did check the rankings to see the tiers that different law schools were in. I looked, too, at the schools’ course offerings, their clinics, whether they offered a joint JD-MBA degree program, and how well they did for their graduates in terms of employment. For that reason I was interested in the strength of their alumni networks, which can really be the backbone of a school’s careers program and the key to graduates’ success.
The University of Akron School of Law seemed to offer the best balance in terms of what I sought. Then I visited a handful of schools. Akron quickly emerged as my top choice. The atmosphere was right. The programs it had in place were of prime interest to me – its litigation certificate program, for example; its successful trial team; Akron’s dual program with the MBA. It also has a demonstrably strong alumni network, which I knew would be invaluable when it came to jobs.
The cost of living in Ohio’s northeast region certainly played a role, too. As I said, I have a family to provide for. Finding a place where it was possible to do that and study law, without being overburdened, turned Akron into a real opportunity.
LD: Talk a little more about what you called the “atmosphere” being right.
PAG: I wanted the environment to be both challenging and positive. Visiting the campus, I came to understand that the faculty, staff and alumni here would offer just that. Akron offers a number of resources to prepare you for law school. I’m referring in particular to the series of events and activities aimed at connecting you to area law firms. Even before starting law school, for example, we entering students met with senior attorneys from area law firms. I was asked what I needed to help me transition into law school by administration members such as Ivy Banks, Alisa Benedict O’Brien and others. They helped me search for part-time jobs so that I could better support my family.
There was a family day during orientation week for spouses and others, during which they learned what to expect, about the challenges of law school, the demands on students’ time. Akron also has a mentorship program for first-years, in which I was connected to a student, Terence Baptiste, who was also seeking a JD-MBA. He connected me to another student, Chong Won, who was in law school supporting a family. My mentor graduated and is a practicing attorney but he’s still mentoring me today. I was also able to get scholarship money in my second year that was both merit- and need-based.
All of this basically signaled to me that people at Akron Law would be keeping an eye out for me, helping my family and me along my law career path.
What I’d say to students doing their research now is that if you’re looking for a big city-type of environment, this isn’t for you. The closest city is Cleveland. But if you’re looking for opportunities to grow as a person and in your career, this could very much be the right school for you. Akron is at the center of several growth industries, of science and technology. It is home to entrepreneurs, which means that you can start on the ground level and help build something of value. Akron is also a close-knit family in terms of its legal community. Once you’re a part of it, you’re known and everyone will look out for you. I love that about this place.
LD: What do you wish you’d known about law school before enrolling?
PAG: How difficult it would be on my family. I had some idea, but nothing could really prepare me for it. It is difficult to deal with the days when I have to leave before my children wake up and cannot return until they are already sleeping again. It’s even harder to have to explain to them that Daddy has to attend class, go to work or head to the library to study when they want me to stay and play.
I can’t begin to give adequate credit to my wife in that regard and to her having to wrestle with my busy schedule. We’ve struggled through it. We feel a bit more hopeful now, since we are approaching the end. It hasn’t been easy, but I believe that it somehow made us stronger as a family.
LD: Has anything surprised you about law school or about Akron School of Law?
PAG: The legal profession itself, I think, and how slow it is to change. I can certainly understand why lawyers might not want to do anything precipitous, why they would want to be certain of the consequences. But I also admit that I had long thought of the courts and legal community as being on the forefront of change and actually pushing for it. Now I think of them as balancing the need for change and the need for consistency.
LD: What has been your most memorable or valuable law school experience?
PAG: It’s hard to choose. My most memorable law school experience was probably when the law school dean, Matthew Wilson, nominated me to the honor college’s featured student program. The honor involved a ceremony whereby I was able to deliver a speech before the university’s board of trustees. This gave me an opportunity to thank, and highlight, a number of people who have really been there for me in law school, including my family of origin, my church family back in Orlando, some law school professors, staff members and classmates, and, of course, my wife, Andrea.
I was especially happy to have her there, since she helped me more than anyone else in this endeavor. Having her share in that moment felt very satisfying.
Working with The University of Akron Research Foundation is a close second when it comes to my most valuable law school experience. I enjoy working with entrepreneurs and with business attorneys who understand the intricacies of business law, of a start-up and of the venture capital community. It’s been a real opportunity to take theory into practice.
Other experiences have underscored the rightness of my decision to study law and my choice of Akron. For instance, I have been able to utilize my Justice Thomas J. Moyer Fellowship to launch legal research into land tenure issues in Haiti. Last summer, I spent time interviewing individuals from the judicial branch and administrative agencies in Haiti on this topic to further my research. This will allow me to contribute in a meaningful manner to the resolution of a number of issues relating to land ownership conflicts in Haiti.
In Haiti, this is a major issue, since families often work land they don’t own. The system for establishing ownership used to be so lengthy and costly that few people undertook it. You can imagine how this has played out among people interested in rebuilding after an earthquake or hurricane. They suddenly find that the title to the property they acquired wasn’t marketable. That’s just part of the issue that I’m working into a paper on the subject. A professor of property law here, Brant Lee, is helping me with it.
Being a member of Northeast Ohio’s Student Venture Fund (NEOSVF) has offered me rich, eye-opening experiences with startup businesses and startup communities that inform how I will use my joint degree in law and business. I’ve been able to work with aspiring entrepreneurs who are truly innovative problem-solvers, and with fund managers who possess a wealth of business experience.
Finally, my education at Akron Law has permitted me already to help the underserved through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program with the IRS through United Way. I actually found the program through the IRS website; it turns out that we have such a program here at the university’s business school. The law school also has provided the opportunity to intern at a bankruptcy clinic that is a joint program with Akron Community Legal Aid to assist the local community.
I have been able to serve the law school community directly as an officer in several student organizations, including being president of the Black Law Student Association, vice president of the International Law Society and lieutenant governor of the American Bar Association’s Law Student Division for the 6th Circuit.
LD: What do you plan to do with your law degree?
PAG: I came to law school intent on learning as much about law and business as I needed to create positive change in the communities that I serve. I have learned about career paths that will allow me to do that, which has led to a little fine-tuning of my original plan. I now want to become a business attorney and venture capitalist. My goal is to encourage community growth and empowerment by helping people realize their dreams of taking their small and emerging businesses to higher pinnacles.
I also aim to encourage innovation and contribute to the discovery of creative commercial solutions to the problems of impoverished communities. Business law and entrepreneurship will offer me the chance to do all of these things as I use my law degree to encourage doing businesses in a more socially positive manner.
Contact Margot Slade at (914) 396-4248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.